(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office)

On 30 October 2005, security forces arrested three residents of the Gaza Strip, members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, as well as an Egyptian national with considerable experience in smuggling weapons.  The four men were apprehended in the Zihor area, south of Mitzpe Ramon after having infiltrated into the Negev from Sinai.

The four men are: Akhram Muhammad Hassan Khasnat, born in 1982, a resident of Gaza; Hamis Muhammad Ibrahim Daalis, born in 1973, a resident of Gaza; Tzalah Salah Nasser Suarkhah, born in 1970, a resident of Gaza and Saad Menizl Ratimah Tarabian, born in 1964, a resident of El-Arish in Egypt.

Saad Menizl Ratimah Tarabian admitted that in the last one and a half years he had cooperated in smuggling people, AK-47s and ammunition from Egypt to Israel. It is estimated that he smuggled 270-360 weapons to Israel during this period.  In late September 2004, he smuggled an explosive device into Israel.  He also admitted to using camels to smuggle in RPGs.

The three Gaza Strip residents admitted to having been recruited into the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades by Salem Thabet, a senior Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorist who was one of those behind the 14 January 2004 suicide bombing at the entrance to the Erez industrial zone in which two IDF soldiers, one Border Policeman and one civilian security guard were killed and the 14 March 2004 double suicide bombing in Ashdod in which 10 civilians were murdered. The cell was intended to establish a forward infrastructure to assist in infiltrating terrorists into Israel and in locating suitable targets.

The three-man cell had also been asked to assist in the infiltration into Israel of a suicide terrorist wearing an explosives-laden belt; due to logistical problems they infiltrated into Israel without him. The cell also intended to kidnap and murder an Israeli soldier or civilian in order to use the body to bargain for the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

Salem Thabet and his Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades infrastructure continue to direct terrorist attacks inside Israel. His name has been given to Palestinian officials several times yet he continues to plan terrorist attacks against Israel.